The paradox of transport

4th December 2014
Labor must rip up the East-West Link Contracts

I spent some three years investigating sustainable transport and what became clear was that what might seem obvious is not necessarily the correct solution and might in fact be counter-productive. For example if roads are congested, building more/wider/bigger roads might seem the obvious solution but more road space, particularly at a time of low oil prices – or where the buyer has become accustomed to the price – tends to attract more traffic, leading to more congestion. The freeway along the Yarra River, for example, was designed to absorb the projected increase in cars for 15 years. It reached capacity in 3 months.

Investing in public transport and associated active (walking and cycling) transport solutions helps to free up existing roads for those that need or want to use them.

Before last week’s Victorian State election we heard much about how the majority of Victorians supported the East-West link but the reasons against building such a road (and destroying valuable parkland) were never explained with the same intensity or the financial case demonstrated.

Four years ago Labor narrowly lost the State election and lack of action on public transport was arguably one of the key reasons. I’m not sure that in opposition Labor prepared enough in the public transport arena but what is clear is that the Liberal government did not do enough and the people of Victoria have now decided which party they want in power. State Labor is now on notice as is our road-obsessed and anti-metropolitan-rail Prime Minister.


Peter Newman writes in The Conversation (3/12/14):

“Labor’s state election victory in Victoria has fatally undermined Melbourne’s most controversial tunnel, the now-doomed East-West Link, with new Premier Daniel Andrews pledging to rip up the contracts for the project. His decision is a victory for anyone who values 21st-century urban thinking over the outdated car-first mentality. It’s also a financial relief, because – as the project’s back story shows – the East-West Link was always more about politics than economics. …

“The East-West project grew in concept and soon became a massive capital cost, with the price tag for the whole plan, including the western extension to Melbourne’s port, threatening to hit A$10 billion and swamp the transport budget. …

“Melbourne has one of the most attractive city centres in the world for knowledge economy jobs. It needs to ensure that this is not lost by tipping more cars into its walkable centre. Instead it needs to encourage commuting by rail, bike and on foot. …

“The public can sense that we have to update the way we travel and how we build cities so they are not car-dependent. The road-building brigade needs to take a deep breath and see that their plans are old-fashioned. Perhaps the legacy of the East-West Tunnel will be that such projects will never again be foisted on the Australian public."

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